1981 Movies

The 1981 Plex movie database is designed to bring the best movies from that year to your fingertips. Providing easy access to each title, it simplifies the search process for film enthusiasts. From blockbusters to hidden gems, this Plex database is a comprehensive and useful resource that ensures you never miss out on the greatest films released in 1981.
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The Best Movies of 1981

My Dinner with Andre

"André Gregory and Wallace Shawn take us on a unique journey in My Dinner with Andre, a film unlike any other. The film revolves around a dinner conversation at Café des Artistes in Manhattan. The central focus is a series of captivating tales from André's time away, which bring to light the drastic changes in their worldviews. The film places a significant emphasis on thoughtful discourse, human emotions, and the art of conversation.

Das Boot

Das Boot is a striking film from West Germany. This World War II film follows the crew of U-96 during the Battle of the Atlantic. The film adeptly captures the camaraderie among the soldiers and the stark contrast between the adrenaline of battle and the ennui of the fruitless chase. The film stands as an enduring testament to director Wolfgang Petersen's skill, capturing both the chilling essence of warfare and the humanizing elements of the characters.

Raiders of the Lost Ark

Indiana Jones is an iconic character in film history, and the first entry in his franchise, Raiders of the Lost Ark, is an emblem of 1980s action cinema. The narrative follows Indiana Jones as he's hired by the U.S. government to locate the Ark of the Covenant before Nazi agents can get their hands on it. The film cleverly combines action and humor, resulting in a unique blend that continues to inspire and entertain audiences.

Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior

Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior is the exciting second installment in the Mad Max franchise. Set in the Australian outback's post-apocalyptic highways, we see Mel Gibson as Mad Max, fighting off nomadic tribes while seeking justice for his murdered family. With its intense action sequences, simple yet effective plot, and visual splendor, the film is considered one of the best sequels and action films to date.

Blow Out

Blow Out offers a fascinating narrative where sound plays a vital role. Following Jack Terri (John Travolta), who discovers a car accident while recording sounds, the story unfolds into a complex scheme as he investigates the incident and gets tangled with Sally (Nancy Allen). Inspired by Hitchcock's suspense films and Antonioni's work, Blow Out is appreciated for its sophisticated narrative and its distinctive focus on sound as a storytelling tool.

Escape From New York

Set in a dystopian future, Escape From New York sees Manhattan turned into a massive maximum-security prison. The film follows the character of Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell), who is tasked with extracting the President from the island. Thanks to Russell's performance and the engaging narrative, the film has gained a cult following and continues to entertain viewers.


Thief presents a story of a skilled jewel thief, Frank (James Caan), who yearns to leave his unlawful lifestyle and start a family. However, his plans are disrupted when he aligns himself with a powerful mobster. The film offers a compelling narrative filled with emotion and stylistic elements, making it a standout entry among films with similar themes.

An American Werewolf in London

An American Werewolf in London takes the concept of werewolf mythology and wraps it into an ingenious mix of horror and comedy. Following two American travelers attacked by a werewolf in England, the movie explores the psychological and physical aspects of lycanthropy in a way that is both innovative and entertaining.

Chariots of Fire

Chariots of Fire is a film based on the real-life story of two British athletes participating in the 1924 Olympics. The film poignantly captures the athletes' struggles as they grapple with their pride, conscience, and religious beliefs. Winning multiple Academy Awards, Chariots of Fire has etched its place in film history as a celebration of the human spirit.

The Evil Dead

The Evil Dead follows a group of college students who unleash a host of demons and spirits in a secluded cabin. The film's use of a confined setting, bold execution, and commitment to gruesome horror elements have made it a standout within the genre. Director Sam Raimi's signature storytelling is evident throughout, adding another layer to the film's appeal.

1981 Movies & Industry Highlights

Highest-Grossing Films in North America

In 1981, several films managed to break records and grab attention through their box office performance. Among these, Paramount's "Raiders of the Lost Ark" took the top spot, generating substantial revenue. Following closely behind, "On Golden Pond" from Universal Studios also captivated audiences. "Superman II," distributed by Warner Bros, likewise left its mark on viewers with its unique storytelling and iconic characters. Other notable films from this year included "Arthur," "Stripes," "The Cannonball Run," "Chariots of Fire," "For Your Eyes Only," "The Four Seasons," and "Time Bandits," each contributing to an engaging year in cinema.

Significant Events of 1981 in Film

The year 1981 witnessed a series of noteworthy events in the film industry that made it a particularly unique year.

  • Ronald Reagan, a former film actor, became the president of the United States in January, indicating the intersection between the entertainment industry and politics. This momentous occurrence was just the start of a year full of significant changes.
  • One of the more business-oriented events was Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)'s acquisition of United Artists in May, a strategic move caused in part by the losses incurred from the costly movie "Heaven's Gate." As a result of this financial setback, owner Transamerica decided to sell United Artists.
  • In a rather dramatic turn of events, the 53rd Academy Awards, initially scheduled for March 30, were postponed due to an attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan that very day. The ceremony proceeded the next day, inclusive of a message from the President himself, pre-recorded before the tragic event.
  • The month of June marked Marvin Davis's acquisition of 20th Century Fox for a substantial amount. It was also in June when Paramount Pictures released "Raiders of the Lost Ark," setting new standards for action-adventure films and spawning four sequels.
  • The year progressed with even more noteworthy occurrences. In August, the release of "An American Werewolf in London" became a benchmark in Visual Effects and Makeup. October saw the transition of MGM's president and chief operating officer, David Begelman, to the position of chairman and chief executive officer of United Artists.
  • By November, United International Pictures was established to handle the international distribution of films for United Artists, MGM, Universal Pictures, and Paramount Pictures, replacing the Cinema International Corporation. This change was a result of MGM's acquisition of UA.